The Last Peonies

June 17, 2015


They hatch from the green flower buds overnight and the world witnesses a spectacular performance of beauty, colour and perfume... They just go wild on the stage for a week or two and then the show is over. But the huge, superb pompons of artistry and poetry are exquisite enough to make me forgive their short life. The fragility of their perfection makes me carry all this gorgeousness in my heart as I am reminded once again that nothing is permanent in life. My heart is like a blooming garden...



Sharing at Home Sweet Home / Feathered Nest Friday


Dandelion Cookies

May 26, 2015


" If in our daily lives we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. If we really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile? Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy. The source of our true smile is an awakened mind. Smiling helps you approach the day with gentleness and understanding. 
When I see someone smile, I know immediately that he or she is dwelling in awareness. 
Our smile will bring happiness to us and to those around us. Even if we spend a lot of money on gifts for everyone in our family, nothing we buy could give them such happiness as the gift of our awareness, our smile. And this precious gift cost nothing. At the end of a retreat in California, a friend wrote this poem:
I have lost my smile,
but don't worry.
The dandelion has it.
If you have lost your smile and yet are still capable of seeing that dandelion is keeping it for you, the situation is not too bad. You still have enough mindfulness to see that the smile is there. The dandelion is one member of your community of friends. It is there, quite faithful, keeping your smile for you. 
In fact, everything around you is keeping your smile for you. You don't need to feel isolated. You only have to open yourself to the support that is all around you, and in you. Like the friend who saw that her smile was being kept by the dandelion, you can breath in awareness, and your smile will return".  
                                                                                                                          Thach Nhat Nanh "Peace Is Every Step"
        


You would love these dandelion flower cookies. The dandelion is not an usual addition to a dish, yet with its honeylike taste and earthy texture, dandelion blossom makes for delicious cookies, muffins and cakes. The molasses and the dried apricots blend perfectly with all spices and dash of vanilla. Dandelion cookies with glass of milk or tea are the perfect treat for every part of the day. Fun to bake especially with your kids, they will certainly make you smile.

More about the dandelion flower here.


Dandelion Flower Cookies
(recipe from the book "Cooking with Flowers" By M. Bacher; makes about 16 normal sized cookies)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 ( 1 stick) cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp.  molasses
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup dandelion petals
100gr. dried apricots, chopped in small dice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, stir to combine flour, oats, baking soda and allspice.
Beat butter, sugar, molasses, and vanilla until smooth and light in colour. Add egg  and beat until fluffy incorporated.
Blend dry ingredients, dandelion petals and apricots into butter mixture and mix just enough so that any streak of flour disappear.
Scoop small bolls of batter 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies have spread but still flexible, about 12 minutes.


* The dandelion is generally considered safe in food; however some people may have allergic reactions  to it. Gather dandelion flowers from areas free of chemical treatments or fertilizer. Pick in a sunny part of the day, so the flower are fully open and prepare right away. Once picked, they do not last long. 




   
What keeps your smile for you these days?



Lilac Mornings

May 22, 2015


"Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light. 
It was what I was born for – to look, to listen, to lose myself inside this soft world – to instruct myself over and over in joy, and acclamation. 
Nor am I talking about the exceptional, the fearful, the dreadful, the very extravagant – but of the ordinary, the common, the very drab, the daily presentations. 
Oh, good scholar, I say to myself, how can you help but grow wise with such teachings as these – the untrimmable light of the world, the ocean's shine, the prayers that made out of grass?" Mary Oliver

My mornings smell like lilac these days. The sweet pleasant fragrance comes with every current of the gentle wind. With every breath I inhale the granny's perfume, the words of a poem, the passion of my youthful lilac nights and the shelter of my grandparents' garden. Every breath exhaled brings forth a sense of warmth, safeness and gratitude. My mornings these days makes my heart grow tender. The tiny lilac petals help me recognize the preciousness and fragility of each new minute. It always amazes me when Nature and my mind work together, when I am able to stop and pay attention to nature's simple beauty and allow it to transform my thoughts. These real and essential "daily presentations" teach me to give myself a choice to see the world differently, feel the joy of life and find possibilities in seemingly impossible realms. I do NOT know the answers and techniques to freeing our minds of confusions and leading meaningful lives. But I try every morning to wake up and look for Life, not for its meaning and purpose, but – life, the everyday one, the ordinary one, the one in me. My life. Messy as my morning table. Imperfect as my custard tart. I try every morning to wake up and live it all even when I feel like not leaving the bed. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes not so. Sometimes it is enough, but other times I have to push myself to end the monologue in my head, to awaken for what is out there and to believe in nature's wisdom and life's surprises. To live it all, or in other words, to nourish the soul, I have to simply be, here and now, aware of the moment and focusing the mind on what is nurturing – how to smile at the sun, how to hear in silence, how to feel the hot running water cleaning my body, how to say good morning with love, accept a kind word, laugh genuinely or cry softly, listen without judging, how to care for a child, to thank a stranger, to smell the freshly-cut grass, to notice the lilac... Then my days become sweet as the lilac syrup, fragrant as the lilac sugar because on such mornings, while encountering the life with its "daily presentations", I make the extra effort to "put lilac flowers in them".       




Lilac Syrup 
(makes approximately 500 ml; adapted from the book Cooking With Flowers)

Ingredients:

2 cups water
3 cups lilac blossoms
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbs. blueberries (optional, for color)

Directions:

Place lilac blossoms in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let stand for at least 2 hours or overnight. Over medium heat, bring berries to a simmer along with sugar and lilac water. Cook and stir mixture for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour through a fine mesh strainer into a glass container. Discard berries and lilac solid. Refrigerate for up to 1 month. Use in drink mixes, over sorbets, ice cream and fruit salad. Drink it as a cold drink with a couple of ice cubes.


You can find the recipe for lilac-scented sugar here.  For especially vibrant lilac sugar, grind sugar with lilac flowers in a food processor until pulverized. 1/2 cup flowers per 1 cup sugar.




                               Which "daily perceptions" do you enjoy and appreciate these days? 



Canadian Tulip Festival

May 19, 2015


The tulip is a symbol of international friendship and is Ottawa's official flower. The tulip legacy dates back 70 years when the Dutch government and royal family made a gift of a thousand tulip bulbs to the people of Canada as an expression of deep gratitude and friendship for the sacrifice Canadian soldiers made in liberating the Netherlands near the end of the Second World War. In 1953 an annual festival of commemoration and celebration of the tulip legacy was born. Each year, the Dutch royal family still sends 20, 000 bulbs to Canada.
Since this past weekend Canada celebrated Victoria Day, my family and I couldn't think of a better place to visit than the capital city of Ottawa with its beautiful tulip festival. Millions of tulips adorned Parliament Hill, the banks of the Rideau Canal and Down's lake, hosting the biggest display and the festival itself. Despite the fact that some of them have already faded, I tried to capture the joy and colour of these delightful spring flowers brought to our day. 


Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts.
I hope you all have a splendid spring season! 




Sharing with Wow Us WednesdayHome Sweet Home


Family Road Trip: Fort Lauderdale & Miami (Part 2)

May 15, 2015


There is no disputing the allure of the glistering acres of warm, golden sand that border 

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL

A 2-mile-long section of the ocean coastline is fronted by a beachfront promenade with palm threes and white wave walls where tourists like to walk while locals jog even before the sun rises. Arriving here, we were lucky enough to find a room at Sea Club Resort conveniently located right across the beach. (I would recommend this hotel as a good option if you want to stay on a budget in a great location by the ocean, attractions, and shops.) In fact, we arrived in Fort Lauderdale late at night, but nothing could stop us from going to the beach and jumping in the warm ocean under the clear night sky of the Sunshine State. Moments like that are unforgettable and are our simple answer to the decision of spending our money on experiences, not things. Seriously, there is a science behind prioritizing experiences over material goods. A psychological study suggests that you will get more happiness spending money on experiences like traveling, going to art exhibits, outdoor activities, learning new skills, etc. For the reason that "while happiness from material purchases diminish over time, experiences become  a bigger part of us and part of the stories we will tell to one another." And if you think about it, you would agree that a road trip can provide all of these experiences and stories all at once, can't it?

I read in a tour-book guide that there is a good reason why Fort Lauderdale is known as the Yachting Capital of the World and the Venice of America. In my opinion, in regards to yachts – yes – there are many yachts in Fort Lauderdale and most of them are big, humongous ones that made me ask "why". In addition, these boats replace cars as the type of transportation because of city's extensive network of canals and multimillion-dollar mansions with mega yachts casually parked in front of them in the water is a normal view in Fort Lauderdale. However, having been to Venice many times, I think the comparison with the "City of Bridges" is much exaggerated. Canal road systems aren't reserved for quaint European towns and there are canals in nearly every corner of the globe. We have to stop calling every city with canals "the Venice of (this geographical location)" because cities lose identities and uniqueness in this way. Fort Lauderdale has its own charm and vibe. It is beautiful and refined. And while we were strolling and window-shopping through Las Olas Boulevard, filled with shops, restaurants and galleries, we sensed downtown's Mediterranean ambience that invited us to stop for a latte at a side-walk cafe and engage in some beautiful life's moments watching.

We enjoyed Fort Lauderdale for five days (as one of them we spent in Miami) and then we headed to Key West.




Within an hour drive south from Fort Lauderdale through Ocean Drive, we reached one of the most vibrant, edgy and exciting cities

MIAMI, FL

We started our "one day in Miami" with an early morning visit to The Juice Spot as our son requested. It is an organic cold pressed juice and wifi bar, hidden away on a not so busy street, but it is LeBron James' wife's spot and that is why our big basketball fan and player himself was secretly wishing to see the King there. Guess what! He was there, sitting with his manager at the corner, frequently biting his nails. My son was ecstatic! How often does a boy who has been for the first time in his life to Florida, travelling 2600 km from Toronto to Miami on a family spring break, find himself randomly talking to one of the greatest basketball athletes of our time? It was quite an experience for all of us. Of course, James didn't sign an autograph, nor his own brand shoes, nor did he take a photo with my son, blaming the rules of the shop. However, no one stopped me from taking photos of my son in which LeBron James casually appeared in the background. It, in fact, raised a good conversation among us and lately our friends and relatives about famous people's privacy, personal space, star-fan relationship and so on. As mature as my son is, he didn't take any of this personally, he understood the "policy" and he was more than grateful for this opportunity fully realizing that such an encounter is one of those that would be remembered for life and should be celebrated. He even made a good joke out of it "I was so hoping it would turn kind of like a "Like Mike" moment where a teenage boy becomes an NBA superstar after trying on a pair of sneakers signed by "M.J"
Who knows, one day James' children might ask for my son's autograph, right?

Our day continued with exploring South Beach and its Art Deco District. Pastel pallets and symmetry and at the same time glamour and exuberance are perhaps what make this early Modernists style architectural area (some call it Tropical Deco) fascinating. There is no surprise that many filmmakers, fashion designers, artists and photographers find inspiration among these classic hotels, fanciful bars, dunes and magnificent beaches.
Traffic begun its slow crawl past the popular Colony, Boulevard and Beacon Hotel, a classic example of South Beach deco design. Colony Hotel (1935) is particularity noteworthy for being the earliest building to incorporate blue neon into its exterior and use this neon tactic to attract customers. Located one block north is the area's most infamous residence – the large white, 1930 Spanish style mansion, once the home of the Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, who was shot to death on the steps. Few blocks from that well-beaten path of Ocean Drive, full of beautiful people, we walk through the pedestrian-only Lincoln Road only to be amply rewarded with a nice urban sophisticated spot for comfort food and great desserts  Icebox Café (highly recommended).

I would most likely never move to live in Miami (first on my current list of places in the USA is Savannah, GA :), but I can understand why many people choose to do that. Miami is exciting. Life happens here in a very colourful, fiesta kind of way. Miami feels like a never-ending feast for the senses especially to tourists. Glamour seems part of everyday life. Light is different and makes the city glow. Cultural diversity and cultural heritage are tangible. It is a magnificent blend of people who bring their music, food, aesthetic and zest for life to the party and "everyone wants to join that party."
Miami may be indeed the Magic City (and not only because of its rapid growth from where the city's nickname originates).





Have you been to Florida? Are you planning on visiting the Sunshine State? What do you like most about Miami?  
I would love for you to share your thoughts here. 

Thank you kindly. 



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